Luther College President Paula Carlson welcomed faculty, staff and students to the 154th academic year at Luther College during the Service of Dedication. Carlson is the first woman to serve as president of the College.
The complete text of her speech reads as follows:
“Welcome to the start of the 154th academic year at Luther College. I am honored and delighted to welcome you here today. This summer, my husband, Thomas Schattauer, and I have received many words and deeds of welcome from members of Luther's faculty and staff and from members of the Decorah community. We're grateful for this warm welcome! Many thanks!
Today, we look forward together as faculty and staff to welcoming our new first-year students on Saturday and then welcoming our returning students back to campus early next week for the start of classes.
Many welcomes for us all both to receive and to extend at this start of the new academic year.
And indeed, we are all "well come" to Luther College. It is well that we have all come to this distinctive, extraordinary community where—as the Luther College mission states—"students, faculty, and staff are enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." We are a college where we "challenge one another to learn in community, to discern our callings, and to serve with distinction for the common good."
This mission is distinctive and extraordinary. It is worthy of our commitment and our energies. It is well that we have come together here in this beautiful place—Decorah, Iowa—to live this mission in our life together at Luther College.
In my first weeks at Luther, I've had opportunities to learn more about ways that faculty and staff in departments across the campus support and foster Luther's mission. With faculty or staff members as my guides, I've toured classrooms, labs, office areas, gymnasium and fitness spaces, the aquatic center, lecture halls, meeting rooms, library spaces, recital halls, studios, residence halls, and more. In meetings with department and program heads, I've learned more about course offerings, college ministries, study abroad opportunities, our diversity center, faculty projects and research, the sustainability program, our athletic conference, Luther's art and museum collections, student organizations, music tours, alumni events, summer programs, technology, and more.
Thank you to everyone who guided me through buildings and who tutored me about Luther programs this summer! It's clear to me that the abundance and excellence of learning opportunities at Luther is extraordinary and distinctive. Luther faculty and staff are creative, innovative, and dedicated to their callings. Our new first-year students and our returning students are well come to Luther for their college years.
As we begin this 154th academic year at Luther, I'm glad for the opportunity today to share information about our incoming class and to talk both about some programs and initiatives underway and about some new initiatives we'll be focusing on this year.
On Saturday, we will welcome our new students to campus. Our new students are coming to us from 29 states and 23 other countries. 203 of our new students have participated in a service or mission trip; they're served in 19 different countries and 30 different states. Some of our students from the US have already studied abroad - in a total of 22 different countries. Nineteen of our new first-years were president of their high school senior class. Seventeen were valedictorians. 214 are hoping to participate in athletics, and 253 are planning to audition for a music ensemble. While they were in high school, our new first-years participated in many different activities, ranging from competitive dancing to serving in a volunteer fire department to teaching skiing lessons. They bring their energy, talents, and hopes for the future to us.
Early next week, our returning students—sophomores, juniors, and seniors—will arrive back for the start of classes. This year, we experienced strong retention of our rising junior and senior classes. Both classes are on track to have graduation rates in our top two or maybe three places over the past fifteen years.

The official total enrollment count for the semester always happens on the tenth day of classes, so in mid-September we will have the final, official enrollment total for this year.
We're eager to welcome our new and returning students to campus in the next few days, but our admissions team has already turned its attention to the Class of 2019 - next year's first-year students. Earlier this month, we hosted prospective students and their family members for Iowa Private College Week. During this week we hosted prospective students from ten states, with attendance for the week up by 65 compared to last year. Thanks to those of you who participated in panels, gave tours, or led sessions during this important summer week. The number of inquiries our admissions office has received from high school students who will be seniors is also up compared to last year. As our admissions team reaches out to prospective students, it is both reaching out to new constituencies and renewing its energies among our long-time constituencies. Throughout the coming academic year, the admissions office will be hosting visit days, tours, information sessions, panels, and the like. Thank you in advance for your active engagement with our admissions team throughout the year to help prospective students see and understand the extraordinary opportunities and education offered here at Luther. Your participation makes a difference, and we look forward to enrolling another great class next fall.
I want to offer congratulations and best wishes to College Pastor David Vasquez, who was elected president of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California two weeks ago. Pastor Vasquez has served as a college pastor at Luther since 2001. We are grateful for Pastor David's commitment to the college's mission over these thirteen years; for his care for students, faculty, and staff; and for his pastoral leadership here at Luther. He will begin his new call at the Pacific School of Religion at the beginning of January. We will miss Pastor David and we wish him Godspeed as he begins his new work in California.
Over the course of this academic year, a committee including faculty, staff, students, a recent graduate, and a local Lutheran pastor will work with the College Ministries team as we explore possibilities and opportunities for the Office of College Ministries at Luther going forward. Rev. Ramona Bouzard, Dean of the Chapel at Wartburg College, will help us in this reflection and review process. The ministry of the college pastors at Luther is critical to our mission as a college of the church. My thanks to those who have agreed to serve on the committee that will work with the College Ministries team. My thanks in advance to you for responding to the committee's requests for your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas as we plan for this important office and this important work at the college.
Luther's mission states that we will "challenge one discern our callings." Over this past year, our Career Center has focused on enhancing and expanding the College's programs and opportunities for our students as they discern their callings and prepare for their careers. I invite you to explore the Career Center's web-pages to get an overview of the many ways we encourage and support students to think intentionally and comprehensively about their futures. In particular, I encourage you to become familiar with the new four-year guide that Career Center staff developed for students this summer. The Guide helps students plan and reflect on their classroom learning and on their experiences as they move from the First Year of Self-Discovery to the Sophomore Year of Exploration to the Junior Year of Investigation and finally to the Senior Year of Decision-Making. The Guide offers students options to tailor their experiences and reflection processes to their particular majors, to their own personalities, and to their learning here at Luther. At each phase, coaches in the Career Center will be available to offer counsel and advice.
In partnership with the faculty and staff serving on the committee called "The Guiding Coalition," the Career Center has continued its exploration of ways that the Gallup Organization's StrengthsFinders tool can help us help our students. Our goal is to identify ways that the tool can help students engage fully in their learning and community experiences here at Luther and so be well-prepared as they graduate and begin the first parts of their careers. The Career Center staff will pilot some possibilities this year and then incorporate what they learn into programming and opportunities for students over the next couple of years.

During the months of my transition to Luther and in my first weeks here on campus, it was clear to me that the time has come to think wisely and well about two important places on campus: Main and the athletics complex.
Main stands at the crest of Luther's highest hill on the place where the first Main was constructed in 1865. Main holds classrooms used by many departments, and it holds offices for faculty, student services, and administrative services. Every first-year Luther student spends time in Main. Paideia classes are held in Main, and Paideia faculty have offices there. Religion, English, history, and languages faculty teach and have offices in Main. The classes held in Main are at the core of a Luther education and are shared by all students.
In the athletics complex, the motto "Mens sana in corpore sano" ("a healthy mind in a healthy body") is prominently displayed and has long reminded everyone who passes by that at Luther we care for the whole person - mind, body, and spirit.
The time has come to renew these two places—Main and the athletics complex—that serve curricular and co-curricular cores of Luther College. This summer, two committees, one for Main and one for the athletic complex, began preliminary work on planning for the renewal of these buildings. Working closely with our finance, facilities, and advancement offices as well as with faculty and staff housed in Main and the athletics complex, these committees will explore possibilities for renewing the spaces and make recommendations for moving forward. Members of these committees will be asking for your input, and I urge you to respond to their requests over the coming weeks and months.
Those of you who have served as faculty and staff for more than a decade have, no doubt, participated in some way in a re-accreditation process. Luther College's institutional accreditation is with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. This accreditation is important to us because accreditation with the Commission assures that we meet established criteria for institutions of higher education and therefore that our students are eligible to receive federal student aid dollars. In the past, the Commission's re-accreditation process required that we prepare a self-study and undergo a comprehensive evaluation by the Commission once every ten years. This has changed. Over the past several years, the Commission developed new models for the re-accreditation process and now requires all the colleges and universities it accredits to use one of these new models. The new model that Luther will use is called the ‘Open Pathways.’ This model, like the one Luther previously used, has a ten-year cycle, but rather than having two parts—a self-study and a comprehensive evaluation—both occurring at the end of each ten-year period, the Open Pathways model has four parts: annual reports of key datasets; two reports called "Assurance Arguments" in each 10-year period; a three-to four-year initiative the Commission calls a "Quality Initiative" taking place once each decade; and a comprehensive evaluation visit once every ten years.
My telling you this today is a heads-up. No need right now to remember all the details. Luther's next comprehensive evaluation visit will be held in the 2018-19 academic year, but we will begin work this year on the Quality Initiative, one of the required components of the new re-accreditation model.
The Commission envisions the Quality Initiative as an opportunity for a college to explore a possibility to help it better serve its students, to think innovatively about the future, to live its mission in an exciting new way.
For us at Luther, the timing of this new Quality Initiative couldn't be better. The College has celebrated its sesquicentennial. It has achieved the goals of its last strategic plan and completed the sesquicentennial campaign.
We are ready now for a new strategic plan— to explore possibilities to better serve our students, to build on our core strengths, to think innovatively, and to live our mission into the future. This fall, we'll plan for the plan. I'll keep you posted. I'll be in touch. I eagerly anticipate this work with the Luther community as we plan and then live together this next part of Luther's story as a distinctive, extraordinary college where we are ‘enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning.’ We are all well come to this distinctive, extraordinary college where we challenge one another "to learn in community, to discern our callings, and to serve with distinction for the common good.’”
Welcome to the 154th academic year at this distinctive, extraordinary place-Luther College.
Thank you very much for your time today. I look forward to greeting you at the reception following this Service of Dedication.